Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted the fact Danny Welbeck was facing his boyhood club played a huge part in his decision to start the former Manchester United striker last night, a tactical masterstroke that was vindicated in some style.
Welbeck took his chance to shine by taking full advantage of a mistake from Antonio Valencia to score the winning goal for Arsenal in last night's FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford, on a night which saw him return to the club he joined at the age of eight for the first time since a £16m summer move south.
Wenger chose to drop in-form Olivier Giroud in favour of the England international, because he felt the combination of Welbeck's pace on the counter and desire to prove his worth against United would deliver the goods.
When quizzed about the bold strike selection Wenger revealed: "He has pace and you also have to consider it psychologically.
"I have to rotate a little bit without destroying the balance of the team and I felt that we could have counter-attacking chances tonight and he would be ideal for that. Overall he had a great game.
Gamble worth taking
"We all want to do well when we play against our former club to show that we are a great player but it’s not easy to deal with the mental situation.
"He focused just on his game and didn’t do anything special, he just played football like you want him to play. He has shown mental strength because that’s not always easy to deal with."
Welbeck's professionalism was impressive
Until that touch of fortune Welbeck had struggled to make his mark in the final third, but never stopped harassing a struggling United backline and worked tirelessly until an opening presented itself.
Welbeck's pace through the middle offers Arsenal a welcome alternative to Giroud, particularly away from home where the Gunners now look equipped to set up and expose teams on the counter.
Wenger reaped the rewards of going for pace across the front at Old Trafford, with the decision to start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also slightly surprising but a worthy move.
The Gunners boss often takes stick for tactical naivety in big matches, but proved he's capable of getting it right when it matters most on a night which could completely change the dynamic of Arsenal's season.
Arsenal fans, how impressed were you with Welbeck's match-winning display last night? Were you as shocked as me to see him start ahead of Giroud through the middle? Let us know by having your say in the comment box below!
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